Chicago police released surveillance video this week showing a young thug punching a priest in the face after the clergyman confronted the young man about allegedly breaking into his church.
Father Matthew Compton was working on the second floor of the rectory of Thomas More Church on Chicago's south side last Friday when he heard unusual noises.
Compton initially thought it was someone with some kind of medical problem in the hallway at around 11:30 p.m.
Compton looked into the hallway and saw a man in a black hoodie whom he did not recognize.
“I realized immediately it’s not the pastor," Compton told ABC News. "It’s a different person,” he said.
Compton, 41, ran after the individual, whom he described as in his late 20s.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” he asked.
The alleged burglar punched the priest on the side of his head and scratched his face before fleeing towards a back door.
“He was shocked that I was there,” Compton said.
Compton ran after the man and confronted him again at the back door.
The priest asked the man again, “Why are you here?”
He said the man responded, "I am here to pray."
"No you are not,” the priest recalled responding to the young burglar.
The offender then forced the door open and fled into an alley.
Compton then locked the back door and sought to locate his pastor - the only other person in the rectory at that time of night.
The two clergyman quickly realized that items including a printer, a laptop computer and Compton's wallet was missing.
“I wanted to know what was happening, I wanted to know who he was," Compton said. "I knew he did not belong [in] the building, but I was trying to sort out what exactly was taking place,” he said.
“I wasn’t thinking through what the best cause of action was,” he said. “I probably should have gone back to my office and called the police right away.”
The confrontation lasted about two and half minutes. Police arrived about 10 to 15 minutes after the incident was reported. The church has been been burglarized and vandalized at least four times, Compton said.
He said that the alleged burglar and another person apparently entered the building through a hole they made by dislodging an air conditioner.
“The presence [of the alleged thief] is unsettling," Compton said. "And the sense of not respecting my rights, my property, my residence, to my knowledge, I’ve never done anything to him,” he said.
Though annoyed and alarmed, Compton, who has been a priest for 14 years, said he hopes the young man redeems himself.
“At the same time, coming from the Catholic faith, I forgive him. I want to forgive him, and my hope is that he changes,” he said.
Compton said that he and his pastor now lock all the doors, turn on an alarm system and retreat to their rooms early.
“We go to the room earlier in the evening, so we can have all the alarms activated - not just the door, but all the alarms in the building activated,” he said.